Erdoğan takes election gamble
Turkey’s Supreme Election Council this week took a momentous decision by annulling the outcome of Istanbul’s mayoral election held in March. The decision comes after weeks of government pressure on the Council to overturn the election result which seen opposition candidate Ekrem İmamoğlu narrowly defeat Mr. Erdoğan’s governing AK Party. Voters in Istanbul will return to the polls on June 23rd in an election which will be seen as a critical test for President Erdoğan’s grip on power.
Next month’s mayoral election is a monumental gamble for Turkey’s long-term leader. Should Erdoğan’s AK party be successful in regaining control of Europe’s largest city, he will tighten his grasp on the levers of power which has witnessed a shift in Turkey’s trajectory in the area of foreign affairs policy including relations with the EU. The Turkish President has taken a tough stance with the EU in recent years and this week accused the bloc of double standards in accession negotiations. His government’s economic, political and legal reforms have delayed accession talks with the EU and a victory for the AK party is likely to cause further confrontation. In a sign of the increasing tensions between Ankara and Brussels, the Leader of the ALDE political group in the European Parliament, Guy Verhofstadt, was swift to condemn the decision to rerun the vote and noted that “Turkey is drifting towards a dictatorship.”
On the other hand, Erdoğan’s election gamble also risks handing momentum to Turkey’s opposition as well to supporters of his own party who are against the decision to rerun the election.
Furthermore, the uncertainty caused by the decision to rerun the vote has put further pressure on Turkey’s economy which entered into recession in March for the first time in a decade. Amid the growing political turbulence in Turkey, one thing is certain, the outcome of Istanbul’s mayoral election will have significant repercussions for the country’s trajectory.